Keeping our children healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Written by Shaina Rogers, D.O., Pediatrician at Hatch Pediatrics

Since the unwelcome arrival of COVID-19 to Bozeman our community has endured many challenges. From school closures and social distancing, to Governor Bullock’s stay-at-home directive, our day-to-day lives have changed dramatically. While difficult, these decisions have undoubtedly saved lives and made our community safer. As a result of your significant personal and professional sacrifice the state of Montana has seen fewer cases than were initially expected. Given Governor Bullock’s recent announcement regarding the plan to gradually re-open the state, it is important to consider how that affects your family and your child’s health care.

One of the unintended consequences of asking people to stay home during this pandemic is delayed well-child care. In this incredibly stressful and uncertain time I understand parents’ hesitancy to leave the comfort and security of their home, particularly if their family is healthy. However, newborn and well-child care are extremely important. It has even been asserted that “strong primary health care systems remain the best way to fight COVID-19.”1 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly encourage continued well-child care despite the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for infants and young children through 24 months of age. 2 3 

At well-child visits we evaluate a child’s growth and ensure he is receiving good nutrition. We also assess a child’s development, verifying that he is hitting age-appropriate milestones. We additionally ensure children are up-to-date on immunizations so they are fully protected against potentially life-threatening illnesses. The World Health Organization recently reported, “In 2020 there are increasing concerns about another resurgence [of measles] especially if vaccination rates fall due to delay or suspension of scheduled immunization activities as a result of COVID-19.” 4 The AAP added, “A vaccine-preventable disease outbreak during a global pandemic would be a public health crisis adding needless morbidity and mortality to a health system already stretched thin.” 5 Without the ability to evaluate children at well-child visits, we miss potential opportunities to support families and intervene, if necessary. As a pediatrician and a mother, I am deeply concerned about how this would harm our community, especially our most vulnerable.

As the stay-at-home directive is lifted, now is a great time to reconnect with your physician. It is unclear how exactly the COVID-19 pandemic will progress over the next several months. If current projections are correct regarding a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, it will be even more important that our community is as healthy as possible. In clinic we are following guidelines from the AAP and CDC for providing this important care in a way that keeps your family safe. We are scheduling well-child visits in the morning, and sick visits in the afternoon. We spatially separate patients and minimize waiting times. We have implemented thorough cleaning routines between every patient and are utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also offering some visits for established patients through telemedicine. The AAP recommends that care be provided in person whenever possible; however, it does allow for care to be provided via telemedicine if deemed appropriate by your physician. 6

These are unprecedented times, but we will make it through this together. I have been overwhelmed by the selflessness I have observed in our community during this difficult time. As we collectively answer this call to service, we will emerge an even stronger community. I hope you will allow us, as primary care providers, to do our part to keep your family healthy. Please know we are doing everything in our power to deliver high-quality, compassionate care in a safe manner. If you would like to schedule your child for a well visit, if your child is ill, or if you have questions about vaccination or telemedicine, please call and we will come up with a plan together. Our goal is to keep your family safe and healthy.

As always it is also very important to continue practicing good hygiene. This includes washing your hands well with soap and water, avoiding touching your face, strongly considering using non-medical face coverings while in public, and disinfecting frequently used surfaces. It is also imperative that if you feel ill you do not go to work or school, and follow guidance from our local health department regarding social distancing and quarantine. Thank you for everything you are doing to keep our community safe. Even the small gestures matter. As we continue to show up for one another with courage and kindness, imagine the things we can accomplish together.

Shaina Rogers, D.O. is a pediatrician at Hatch Pediatrics in Bozeman, MT. As both a mother and a physician she is passionate about caring for children. She is accepting new patients.

1 Kagubare J. “Primary health care is exactly that.” The Optimist, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 21 Apr 2020.

 2 Korioth T. “AAP issues guidance to ensure continued care for children during pandemic.” AAP News, American Academy of Pediatrics, 14 Apr 2020.

 3 “Coronavirus Disease 2019: Information for Pediatric Health Care Providers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 17 Apr 2020.

 4 “Hard fought gains in immunization coverage at risk without critical health services, warns WHO.” World Health Organization, 23 Apr 2020.

5 “COVID-19 Update.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 24 Apr 2020.

 6 “Guidance on Providing Pediatric Ambulatory Services via Telehealth During COVID-19.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 15 Apr 2020.

 


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